March 12 is Commonwealth Day: a time for the UK to reflect on its ties with the 52 other countries that make up the Commonwealth of Nations.
Many of the Commonwealth’s biggest and most important countries are still being held back by crushing poverty, poverty that’s caused in large part by lack of access to modern energy services. Countries like India, the world’s second most populous nation, where 239 million people still live without electricity. Or Nigeria, where 74 million lack the power to study after dark or keep food safe to eat. Or Bangladesh, where a third of the population – some 41 million – don’t have the on-demand electrify that we take for granted.
This matters to the UK because these countries are essential partners in the fight against terrorism, trafficking and organised crime. And with their large and growing middle classes, they could be a huge part of the UK’s economic future.
What India, Nigeria and Bangladesh all have in common however, are significant coal reserves, which they have every intention of using to bring power to their people. India, for example, has given half a billion people access to electricity since the year 2000, almost entirely through a mass-expansion of coal power.
Britain should be helping its Commonwealth partners use their natural resources in the cleanest possible way. As world leaders in clean coal technology, we have a responsibility to use that expertise to improve energy access in coal-dependent allies. Only by ensuring that everyone has access to affordable and reliable electricity can we hope to build a more secure and prosperous world.